****Massive Spoiler Alert****
I feel bad even putting all three of their names in the title and spoiling the fact that the trilogy contains a love triangle at all, that’s how expertly timed the progression of this storyline is, but if you’ve so much as glanced at the Goodreads threads about it, I’m sure you’ve figured out that much.
Now, there are a lot of love triangles in YA fiction of admittedly varying quality. The overload of interchangeable girl/good boy/bad boy setups in the genre is one of the main reasons for the recent backlash against love triangles of all kinds in all contexts, and understandably so.
As I’ve made clear in my Defense of Love Triangles, I think the backlash is excessive and enjoy many love triangles in and out of YA. So don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling this one a sole exception to a general rule, but when I told myself to choose just one favorite YA triangle to include on this list…
Over the course of the trilogy, Lena has to go from being a by-the-book girl hoping to get through life without screwing up too badly, to a runaway willing to risk everything for her love, to a revolutionary who has seen the best and the worst sides of love and continues fighting for everyone’s right to pursue it.
No, she isn’t the most unique and colorful character ever designed, but she’s the kind of hero whose skin is easy to slip into, with none of the feeling of bland whininess that so often gets in the way.
Now her first love, Alex.
When he falls in love with Lena, he wants so badly to do the right thing for her, and he’s trapped between the possibilities of drawing her into his dangerous outlaw lifestyle, or seeing her turn eighteen and be lobotomized. He comes clean to her about what he is after a few meetings, and carefully, when she asks, tells her about what life is like on the outside.
Lena’s tracking of the progress of her symptoms is one of the most vividly accurate artistic representations I’ve ever encountered of what falling in love feels like.
Right after she asks to go with him instead of be cured of it, their cover is blown, and the authorities are sent after him, but he stays long enough to rescue her from her family and take her with him to the city wall. She makes it across and looks back just long enough to see him fall under a hail of bullets. End of book 1, Delirium.
Book 2, Pandemonium, is about the second love, Julian.
After integrating herself into Uncured society. Lena’s sent to make contact with Julian, and they end up being held hostage together for political reasons that aren’t the point of this post.
Being stuck in the same room for days, then escaping together to contact Lena’s people for help, they naturally end up getting to know each other. He finds out that the organized Uncured aren’t monsters, and she finds out how conflicted he is about the propaganda he preaches.
Lena is the first girl Julian’s ever been allowed to be close to, and while she’s still learning to live with the worst part of love, the grief of losing it, she has to watch him go through the same process she did of falling in love and accepting it, hoping that she’s done him a favor. When they escape back to unregulated territory, he has just one condition. “We stay together.”’
… And that’s when Alex catches up with her, after escaping from the prison he was dumped in after all those bullets that should have killed him didn’t quite.
That’s what’s so exceptional about the Delirium trilogy. It takes its love to depth most triangles fall short of. It isn’t a story about a fickle girl who can’t seem to help developing two relationships at the same time, or a decisive girl with one boyfriend and one sore loser stalker.
And it perfectly fits the theme of the story, celebrating love in all its beauty and ugliness.
How does it resolve?
Many a complaining fan will tell you, “It doesn’t.”
After all that time Alex spent in prison telling himself that he’ll never see her again, that he hopes she’ll move on and be happy without him, he doesn’t take it quite as well as he wants to when it appears she’s done just that. It takes a while before they can work things out, and in the meantime, Lena can’t instantly shake off the feelings she’s spent a while developing for Julian, especially with him right there, offering a shoulder to cry on.
In the end, Lena and Alex do agree that they still want to be together, with Lena adding, “But it’s complicated.”
Because it is, and it always will be. Cured life is simple, life with love is complicated, and that’s the life they’ve all chosen, for better or worse.
Agree? Disagree? Comments are always welcome! Or keep up with my fictional musings by joining me on Facebook, on Twitter, or by signing up for email updates in the panel on the right!